Okwo AWOL

What more could go wrong for Stanford Football this season? Piling onto injuries and nightmarish failures on offense, defense and special teams, Michael Okwo answered the question yesterday by apparently leaving the team. The senior inside linebacker was leading the conference in tackles but leaves the Cardinal in a lurch.

Stanford senior Michael Okwo may not play Saturday in Seattle, and possibly the remainder of the season.  The inside linebacker was a no-show Wednesday at Stanford's afternoon practice, surprising teammates and coaches alike.  Okwo's official status with the team - if and when he might return - remains unclear today.

"That's still up in the air right now," comments head coach Walt Harris.

Okwo currently leads Stanford and the Pac-10 with 10.29 tackles per game, which ranks #12 in the nation.  He missed the first two games of the season with a broken hand and played several subsequent games in a cast.  Okwo impressively managed to notch new career highs while recording double-digit tackles in five straight games.  His production dropped off his last two games, with five and six tackles against Arizona State and USC, respectively.

The philosophy major and Stanford senior is at the end of his fourth and final year of eligibility.

Okwo's departure at this date would leave the Cardinal in a precarious position.  Rainy conditions in Seattle project for a heavy helping of the running game from Washington.  Okwo is, by both design and his talent, Stanford's number one playmaker in the middle of the field against the run.  His best games have come against run-heavy opponents.

Moreover, Stanford is suffering thin depth at the inside linebacker positions currently.  Redshirt sophomore Pat Maynor has been out the last two games with a staph infection in his leg.  Redshirt freshman Fred Campbell started in his stead last Saturday but left the game injured; his status is questionable for this weekend.  Promoted to that first-string position in practices this week has been true freshman Brian Bulcke, who played defensive end in Canada in high school and at the start of training camp in August before switching to linebacker after Okwo broke his hand.

Taking Okwo's spot at the other starting inside linebacker position Wednesday in practice was fifth-year senior Mike Silva, who has battled migraines the past year and started three games this fall.  He is the Cardinal's most experienced inside linebacker with 12 career starts.

Stanford has no players on the published depth chart behind Saturday's projected starters, Silva and Bulcke.  Outside linebacker and redshirt junior Peter Griffin has now been moved inside for depth.  The Cardinal also have defensive formations they employ with less than the four base linebackers, which may now become more attractive if Campbell and Maynor are out and Okwo does not return.

Though Stanford is barreling toward an ignominious 0-12 season, with nine losses already under their belt, this game at Washington was on paper their best chance for a win on the remaining schedule.  The mood of hope soured noticeably Wednesday at practice as Okwo apparently left the team.

Stay tuned to The Bootleg for more on this developing story.


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